Giving Compass' Take:

• Government agencies, private agencies, and nonprofit organizations are responding to food insecurity in three key ways: Boosting households' food buying, supporting emergency food resources, and protecting the supply chain. 

• What role can donors play in supporting any of these strategies to battle food insecurity?

• Read more about coronavirus and food access. 

For the 14.3 million American households already experiencing food insecurity, COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions have created new layers of hardship. Many families are avoiding or having trouble getting to grocery stores, which have limited their hours and services. Although food inventories remain robust, there have also been empty grocery shelves because of heightened demand for staple goods and supply chain challenges. Restaurants that deliver food are closed or cutting back.

Three broad categories of solutions are being rolled out by government agencies, private businesses, and nonprofits.

  1. Boost Households' Food Buying Power The recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expands SNAP or WIC eligibility by suspending certain requirements and giving states greater flexibility in enrollment rules, food item allowances, and operational requirements. Federal and state policymakers also are considering whether to increase SNAP benefits (e.g., by utilizing Disaster SNAP).
  2. Bolster Emergency Food Resources Local food banks and pantries are struggling to meet the extraordinary demand created by COVID-19. Food donation organizations, like Feeding America, have launched campaigns to raise funds to address emergency needs.
  3. Protect the Supply Chain Several businesses and jurisdictions are considering whether to designate grocery store and food supply chain workers as essential employees, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (PDF), and offer them corresponding benefits and protections.

First, this crisis calls for a coordinated response that addresses both near and long-term challenges. Some jurisdictions, like New York City, have appointed a “food czar.” Arizona and California meanwhile have mobilized their National Guard to support food supply and distribution operations. Food service and retail businesses are adopting COVID-19 response plans to minimize disease transmission while also ensuring food access.

Read the full article about food insecurity by Sameer M. Siddiqi at RAND.